Former Lego robotics competitor, now UA engineering senior, judges regional competition, inspire youth


University of Akron aerospace systems engineering senior Ian Maatz had an “aha” moment back in 2005 when he competed in a LEGO robotics competition as a North Royalton High School science club member. The software whiz kid programmed his team’s robot to cruise toward a lighted wall with record speed, but the robot’s physical mechanics intrigued Maatz even more.

“I enjoyed programming the robot, but at the same time I couldn’t see or physically hold and touch the software. I recognized I was drawn to the more tangible aspects of engineering,” says Maatz, who points out how the LEGO competition helped lead to his decision to major in aerospace systems engineering and, likewise, to volunteer at the Northeast Ohio FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition Sunday, Jan. 12 at UA.

Maatz, who will be among the University and nation’s first graduates to receive a bachelor’s degree in aerospace systems engineering, says he signed up to volunteer at the event to serve as a role model for potential engineers.

The University of Akron

Ian Maatz

“I feel there are a lot of very bright young students who don’t realize their potential,” says Maatz, reflecting on his earlier years as a reserved and quiet student.

Maatz served as a judge during last weekend’s competition. Like Maatz in his teen years, this year’s FFL competitors built and programmed LEGO-based robots as part of the contest. Simultaneously, they received a firsthand glance at the role of an engineer and at STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields overall.

“I’m most interested in the opportunity to interact with young people who are interested in the STEM fields,” he says. “I greatly wish to help reinforce their interest in this area.”